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Just Enough Church

July 24, 2017

Neither my dad nor his four siblings have been involved in church since the late 60s.  It's not that they hate God and it's certainly not that they weren't brought up in the church.  In fact, it was quite the opposite - they got too much church.


My grandfather was a bishop in the Mormon church.  He was actively involved and served as branch president of his local church.  Although Mormon clergy are not paid, in LDS (Latter Day Saints) parlance, the president is the lead pastor of the congregation.  He worked tirelessly for his church and gave the shirt off his back for many people that he served.


I remember hearing stories of my grandfather doing things that seemed miraculous.  The way he prayed over my sister when she was four and had spinal meningitis and the doctor told my dad that she wouldn't make it.  And the way she sat up and asked why she was in the hospital, leaving a few days later with no aftereffects other than some minor hearing loss. 


There was also the story of how Grandpa fell from a tree when he was 18 when he touched an electrical wire while helping some kids get their kite unstuck.  He was shot from the tree and told that he was "dead" from the time he was electrocuted up until the time he hit the ground.  The impact from hitting the ground made his heart start again, but doctors said he would have been brain dead.  Within seconds of the impact, a cold rain began to fall that woke him up and he stood up and walked away unscathed.


These stories may very well be embellished apocryphal accounts of a man who was hated as much as he was revered as told by his wife and children.  Hate is a strong word to use here, but there was definitely a deep hurt and contempt that existed among his children.  Why?  He was a loving and caring man who did so much for so many people.  He served his church well.  He was a man of God.  How could his kids possibly be upset with him?


It's because they felt that their dad loved the church more than he loved them.  In his desire to serve God, he forgot about the first people that God had called him to serve - his family.  Grandpa was always gone and the kids rarely saw him.  This created a rift between them and the institution called church.  If they didn't hate their dad, his kids definitely grew to hate the institution that took him from them.


As clergy, it's beneficial for us to pause on occasion and ask ourselves what God has really called us to.  Are we working too hard to do things that we haven't been called to do?  Is there an opportunity for delegation of certain tasks that may be done just as well or even better by others?  What are we giving up by being in the church so many hours?  Are there ministry tasks outside of the church building such as community service that our family can join us in?


Most of us have been required to undergo boundaries training by our denominations or congregations.  We were taught how not to hurt our congregants and how to maintain integrity, ethics, and laws within our churches, but few of us consider the important boundaries that exist between us and our churches.  These are boundaries that ensure the health of ourselves and our families and actually make us better clergy.


God has called us to serve our family first.  We can still do an amazing job for the congregation that God has called us to in our vocation while not sacrificing our relationships with our family.  Time management, discernment, pausing to assess our call, asking ourselves deep questions - all of these things will go a long way toward making ourselves better pastors, spouses, and parents.



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